The Business Year

Introduced by intrepid agronomists and coffee aficionados in 1963, the Geisha variety has catapulted Panama's coffee to among the world's most sought-after beans.

Francisco Serrací­n

Owner, Don Pachi Estate

We are the fifth generation of coffee producers in our family, whose production goes back to 1873. Producing coffee uninterruptedly for 146 years, we are the oldest family company in the coffee sector in Panama. My father, Francisco Antonio Serrací­n, who is known as Pachi, was a scholar of agriculture—coffee above all—and the founder of the Ministry of Agricultural Development’s national coffee program in the 1960s. In fact, he introduced the Geisha variety, among others, to this country in 1963, which subsequently became an exotic variety of coffee in the US. The production of coffee in this country has been shaped over the years, and through the Association of Specialty Coffees this variety has become an icon. It has reached record-high prices in global electronic auctions and in 2019 reached USD803 per pound from Finca Elida Estate of the Lamastus family. As a firm, our best presentation is the quality of our coffee, which includes not just the Geisha variety but everything else. Unlike other countries where exporters have to send their coffee, we receive constant visits from buyers who come to make sure they purchase coffee from Panama. However, we are not that big. Panama’s production does not exceed 200,000 quintals of coffee, or around 156,000 60-kg bags. In comparison, Costa Rica produces 1.3 million bags of coffee, while Colombia produces 12-13 million bags.

Michael Janson

General Manager, Janson Coffee Farms

Our primary goal was to ensure a high-quality product for our customers, because that is the key to success. We have been growing coffee for 30 years. At the beginning we did not process our coffee, but we soon realized that that was the way to go. When we started roasting and commercializing our coffee, our business started to pick up. Most of our specialty coffee goes to Asia, the US, and Europe—namely, France, Holland, Taiwan, Japan, China, and Korea. The Chinese market is rather new to us and is another big market into which we would like to expand in 2019. When it comes to transforming cattle into coffee farms, at the beginning we were only producing high-quality beef; however, since we were barely surviving, we decided to diversify. Coffee was one of the options, and with the help of an agricultural engineer we started by planting coffee in batches. When Geisha, the most expensive bean in the world, was re-discovered in Panama around 15 years ago, we figured we had to change the type of beans we were growing and focus more on specialty coffee. Although it cost us a good amount of capital to convert into a farm able to produce high-quality Geisha beans, it was worth it in the end because we have had great success.

Wilford Lamastus Jr.

General Manager, Wilford Lamastus Jr.

For a hundred years, our lands had the potential to grow high-quality coffee. In 1995, a coffee producers association started to educate themselves. They moved toward the specialty coffee industry and started learning from Costa Rica, Colombia, and Hawaii. These countries were having more success at the time than Panama. My father was one of the founders of the association. In the 2000s, our coffee was recognized as one of the best, but it was still not sustainable. In 2002, our farm won the Best of Panama competition, an award that provides an incentive for producers to produce better coffee. The contest promotes coffees through an online auction that goes to buyers all over the world. These have now been implemented in more than a dozen countries around the world. When we won in 2002, a pound of coffee cost USD2.37, four times the normal market price for coffee at that time. A new variety of coffee, Geisha, was then discovered in Panama. In 2004, it entered the competition and immediately changed the mentality of buyers. That year, it was sold for USD21 a pound. The world record before that was USD6 coffee from Brazil. Thus, the market started growing in value. In 2018, that variety was sold at USD803 a pound in auction. It takes over eight years to start production with this variety. The strategic position of Panama, in the middle of two oceans, creates a microclimate condition for coffee that is hard to find anywhere else.



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